The space race is heating up, with an all-new cast of characters. Virgin Galactic announced on Thursday that they will launch their next spaceflight on July 11 and will feature founder Richard Branson. The flight is nine days ahead of its competitor, Blue Origin, who will launch a flight featuring founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Billionaire Space Race: Virgin Galactic Vs Blue Origin
Virgin Galactic’s decision to launch SpaceShipTwo Unity with Branson aboard is ushering in a new version of the Space Race in which billionaires are the major players.
Virgin’s flight jumps the gun over the much-publicized launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle. Meanwhile, space race rival and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos just stepped down from his duties at Amazon.
He’ll then spend the next few days getting ready for his spaceflight. Before Virgin announced their schedule, Bezos was preparing to become the first billionaire in space via his company. Instead, Branson will likely get there a few days ahead.
Branson issued a statement for the flight announcement. He said that “After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good.
I’m honored to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”
Virgin Galactic’s Fourth Test Spaceflight
The July 11 spaceflight is Virgin Galactic’s fourth test spaceflight to date. It’s also its first mission with a crew of four onboard. The company’s previous flight last May 22 featured two pilots. As a result of the announcement, shares of Virgin Galactic popped more than 27% during after-hours trading.
Branson will have three Virgin Galactic mission specialists to accompany him during the mission. They include chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and government affairs VP Sirisha Bandla. Virgin Galactic pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly the company’s VSS Unity spacecraft.
Virgin To Livestream The Spaceflight
In addition, Branson's space company announced that they will Livestream the entire spaceflight for the first time. Viewers can watch the feed over Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 to build a space tourism business. Virgin’s plans to carry passengers to space already received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Last June 25, the Federal Aviation Administration granted Virgin a license to fly passengers on future space flights. The company targets early 2022 to begin flying paying passengers.
Billionaire Space Race
With the race to launch two billionaires this month, the billionaire space race heats up. Apart from Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX also plans to carry passengers on longer trips into orbit.
This includes a possibility to link to the US Space Station. Once the race on flies first is over, the competition will again heat up to find out who does it best.
Watch the VIdeoFromSpace feature on Richard Branson joining the crew that will fly on Virgin Galactic Unity 22 on July 11:
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